The Yellow Cloud

learn_bannerIt rolled in yesterday like a spectre from another world. The yellow cloud. We ran for our lives seeking shelter anywhere, in buildings, under bridges, in our tiny cars or underground shopping arcades. The yellow cloud settled over our lands blocking the sun and filling our hearts with darkness and our lungs with pieces of plastic Walmart packaging.

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that round ball is the sun! Beautiful in a toxic way.

This is the famous yellow dust I’ve heard about leaving Chinese factory smokestacks daily and filling the air over Chinese cities with a yellow-green haze. Except now the winds have changed and blown a little puff of that toxic smoke our way–settling on the Pacific coast of Japan and Korea. I’m from Los Angeles, so it really just feels like lung practice to me, but for the locals, it’s a real shock. Authorities and doctors are insisting that people stay inside until this thing passes over, probably Monday or Tuesday. People are walking around with masks. It’s like chemical warfare. And, unfortunately, this is the weekend of the Nagoya Marathon.

I think the most amazing thing about this pollution is how real – how palpable – it really is. If this is what it’s like to live in Beijing everyday there is a real and substantial health problem for those people. There is not a cloud in the sky, yet the typical blue skies of Nagoya are completely replaced with a gradient that begins with white overhead and ends near the horizon in a dirty yellow grey. Maybe I’ll think seriously about this cloud next time I go to buy something from the Gap or Uniqlo…

Hina Matsuri

live_banner_1It’s pretty shocking how much people will spend on a doll in Japan. I’ve heard of dolls well upwards of a thousand bucks. This is odd because these expensive Japanese dolls don’t even look like real people. They don’t have eyes that move around or matted hair or pee in diapers when you feed them water, like good old fashioned U.S. dolls do. These dolls don’t do anything. So where’s the value for the money?

IMG_5751Most of the real pricy dolls are sold for display today, Hina Matsuri, March third. The ancient tradition is to display expensive dolls and celebrate the birth of your daughter(s). Naturally you have to display better dolls than your neighbors. What kind of holiday would it be without a little neighborhood rivalry?

I don’t have any daughters, and I don’t have any dolls to speak of. I do have a Buddha squeeze toy who is talking on a cell phone and sipping coffee. So today I put him on a red carpet and set him outside the front door. But it didn’t last long. Some neighborhood dog mistook him for a chew toy, and got paw prints on my little red carpet.  I’m not gonna do that again next year. Don’t worry, I rescued the Buddha. No damage, just a little slobber.

IMG_1608Aside from putting the dolls out for display, another tradition today is eating chirashi sushi. Chirashi sushi is cut up bits and pieces of sashimi fish on a bowl of sushi rice. Normally I don’t need an excuse to eat chirashi, but as it would happen today I was in the mood for pizza. My mother-in-law would hear of none of it. For her Hina Matsuri is a day to celebrate her daughter, my wife. So I was going to eat chirashi if she had to travel across town to deliver it.  Naturally I acquiesced. Declining a mother-in-laws kindness is a fool’s game, and my mother-in-law knows her way around a bowl of chirashi. So Domino’s we’ll just have to put you on hold until March 4th.

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